Monday, May 28

A Bicycle Built for TwoOne Really Big Person

My town has no bike lanes. No sidewalks. The roads are steeply curved at the sides to deal with the Spring and Autumn rains. The sides are filled with gravel and whatnot, the 'whatnot' being things like maple tree 'seeds' that are 1.5 inches in diameter, spiked like a puffer fish, and hard enough to be used as artillary should China ever decide to invade Oklahoma.

And of course, most of the drivers are homicidal morons, because that is the way it is in every town.

I used to ride my bike to work, about 8 miles, when I was about 20. I was really into biking then, just loved it. I was using my older sister's racing bike, which is almost a different creature than the bikes I'd had before. Most bicycles, you turn the pedal, and the wheel turns with the pedal, and it is your job to turn the pedals well enough to push your weight plus the bike's weight. Racing bikes, you turn the pedal once and the bike flies off into the sunset with you clinging to it like a wild horse. I never knew that biking could be so fast, smooth, easy and fun. I took to riding the bike literally everywhere. My favorite was riding late at night when there wasn't much traffic in my town, with classical music in my walkman headphones. I always felt like I was the hero and it was my movie soundtrack.

Well, my ten year old daughter really wants a new bike. She hasn't had one in a few years, since her far-too-small bike was given away. And I'd love to get her one, but it isn't exactly the safest thing. Now, we do have "neighborhood streets", that while not exactly safe, are at least "reasonable" if you are paying attention. But there is no way I am sending her out alone. She has friends who ride alone all over town, and have for a couple of years. I guess I am a more neurotic mother. I just know that I couldn't live with the outcome of that if it wasn't good.

And of course, I can't ride a bike. I'm too fat. The hilarity of me even getting ON my exercise bike would probably make a great youtube video if it wasn't horrible. (And even off again, for that matter.)

I'd sure like to ride a bike though. I would sure like to ride with her through neighborhood streets over to the park, for example. It wouldn't take much to get to the point where I could, I think. As I dimly recall, a little practice goes a long way.

The only problem is that bicycle seats are small -- it would bruise me horribly -- and bicycles just aren't strong enough to hold my weight. The balance issue is not a problem in general, but is too risky at my weight; if I actually fell off my bike, which can happen to anybody, my weight plus momentum could break bones.

Now that I'm old, I actually like the idea of the big tricycles. I actually started liking them even when younger and thinner. They seem sort of bizarrely old-fashioned, in a way only a true luddite can appreciate.

I used to see those in magazine pictures all the time, some lovely young woman riding one with the groceries in the back basket, and some perfect child following with little bike and helmet and flag. I'm sure they're heavier, which would make riding them more difficult, but of course the perfect woman in the perfect picture never looked to have any problem with it.

I had dismissed the kid's pleading for a bicycle. She is not riding alone in this town, period. And I can't ride with her. So forget it. That sucks. Especially since SHE is getting chubby and desperately needs exercise. But that's the way it is.

Today I came across this, though:

A thousand bucks. Holds up to 550 lbs. A tricycle, with fenders and baskets and oversized seat, AND a battery backup motor that'll help you through hills, or help you get home if you get too far out and are exhausted.

For half the price, a regular bicycle with the high weight rating:

I probably couldn't afford this for at least a year, as I have other things to save money for. Who knows? Maybe a year from now I could be down to 350 lbs, and even more willing to do some biking.

It's nice to know an option like that exists.



Niki said...

I'm really dying to go biking too PJ. Serena's 6 years old and still doesn't know how to ride a bike :( I tried teacher her before, but I just couldn't because of my weight. I was so tired, and couldn't help her. I hope someday her and I can ride side by side.

Ed W said...

Pardon me if I state the obvious. If you're considering riding a bicycle, please find a bike shop you're comfortable with and voice your concerns to them. A good shop with knowledgeable people can find the right bike for you. Additionally, they'll see that the bike fits properly, which is critical to long-term comfort. You wouldn't buy shoes with a poor fit because they'd cause pain. An improperly fitting bicycle is the same.

Also, check with your doctor before trying cycling. I can tell you from long experience that it takes the body at least a month to adapt to the added workload of regular bicycling. Saddles are a particular sore point for many people, and again, a good shop can help with that.

I'm a regular bicycle commuter and a League of American Bicyclists instructor. If I can help in any way, please contact me via:

PJ said...

Wow, thanks for the tips Ed. I think it'll be awhile before I can get there, but I am making a list of stuff I want and stuff I want to do, and riding a bike with my kid is going to be on it!

Niki, can't you get her training wheels? Some degree of self teaching should be possible with those. Find a good lawn. That's how I taught Ry. She had training wheels and I took her to a freshly mowed city park. I found an area with a slight slant to the lawn, started at the top, got her going a little, and she was able to keep on from there. For a bit. And did fall a few times, but not dangerously, as the bike was small and she was on the grass and she wasn't going that far. It worked out, enough that she could 'learn how', so then she could do it somewhere else without me trying to run alongside her (which would NEVER work lol!)

Big Daddy D said...

I sold my bike a few months before starting my diet. I weighed 340 pounds. When I tried to peddle up hill, the chain would skip. I sort of wish I had kept it as after losing over 80 pounds, it might be ridable again.